As my wife and I were watching our sons play in the Westtown summer basketball league games over the past couple of nights, I stated to think about how much of a contact sport basketball has become. When I played the game in grade school , I cannot remember a single teammate (including myself) wearing an athletic mouth guard. Even though it is becoming more routine to see them worn on the courts, it is still not a requirement at any level in our area. An estimated 12 million people between the ages of 5 and 22 sustain sports-related injuries annually, according to the Academy for Sports Dentistry. I am increasingly holding my breath when I see two or three boys going for a loose ball with heads, elbows and knees flying! Just look at the second round series in the NBA this postseason when Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics lost a front tooth and loosened several when making a play against the Washington Bullets (I still can’t say Wizards).
Every time our boys step onto the lacrosse field for a lacrosse faceoff, the referee asked if everyone has their mouth guards in. These players are all wearing helmets so there is already some protecting. The mouth guard is an added safety measure to prevent the teeth from fracturing when they bite together during an impact. I have treated four teeth in the past two months that have split right down the middle due to a traumatic impact from either a fall or a motor vehicle accident. It is a costly and potentially socially-debilitating consequence that can be minimized during basketball simply by having the coaches or the leagues step in a require them. You can be sure that my children will be wearing them the next time they step on the court and I am going to see if I can make this a league-wide requirement. -Dr. Dave